Move the rodeo
Reading the June 7 News&Guide once again reminds me that it’s time for Jackson and Teton County to get on with solving our housing problem.
Move the rodeo. Make a deal with developers south of town by giving them more density in exchange for a permanent home for the rodeo. Then, do a joint venture with housing developers for real workforce housing on the current rodeo grounds. How about 600 units of affordable condos and apartments?! And how about a nice-looking garden-style development, not like the ugly, view-destroying monster going up on Broadway near Bubba’s?
Arguments to save the rodeo in its current location (tourists won’t come to town or let’s save Jackson’s history) should no longer drive this decision. Affordable housing for our workers close to their jobs is critical now. I know some smart, retired, experienced developers who would volunteer, without pay, to get something done.
The rodeo lease is expiring soon. Enough of the studies and delays. Let’s get the job done!
A perilous place
We’re in a perilous place. Our county is facing a meteoric rise in housing costs this year, that has led to workers in our community being priced out of the market they work in. Just last week I was told of a family of three that has now moved to Idaho because their rent in the valley went from $2,400 monthly to $4,000 monthly. This story isn’t unique, and you may either know someone or have your own story of being pushed out. The stories presented in last week’s News&Guide were striking and really gave a stark view of the depths we’re in.
So what’s the solution? We have nonprofits that do great work, but they rely on fundraising and partnerships and for the most part are not a continuous sustainable way to fund affordable housing developments unless we rely on philanthropists. Last month, in an opinion piece in the Cowboy State Daily titled “A Call to Care,” B. Wayne Hughes Jr. suggested that the solution is one where “government needs to only facilitate zoning and approvals … then government needs to get out of the way.”
This notion that we can solve solely with zoning gets in the way of real solutions toward our housing problems. Let’s hypothetically say we zoned to allow for 20-story high-rises. This would absolutely increase supply (ignoring the other issues a 20-story high-rise would bring). But without any policy measures to ensure they are going to people in the workforce, the infinite demand from around the country would ensure that a majority of units would in fact not be in the workforce. Simultaneously, it would increase the need for more workforce due to increased demand for services and the need for even more workforce housing, thus creating a negative cycle.
This is reflected in the growth of our valley so far, where the percentage of our workforce living locally has decreased from 65% back in 2009 to 56% in 2019 and is clearly dropping lower every day this year.
Is this a hard problem? Yes, it is. It will require a multipronged solution. The town and county currently work on this through a few tools but unfortunately do not have the tools in zoning alone to prioritize workforce at a pace to keep up with our needs and not exacerbate them.
I’ve sponsored bills in Cheyenne to allow the county an option to disincentivize vacation homes, and I also support Rep. Andy Schwartz’s bill to implement a sales tax on home sale amounts past the first $1 million. His math notes that it would bring in $12 million a year that we could earmark to build workforce housing. We need your support and the support of all the stakeholders in our community to work on getting bills like these passed, otherwise our community will continue to disappear.
Help me come up with solutions we haven’t thought of yet. I want to work with the community to figure out what we can work on, but I know the one thing that won’t work would be just to “get out of the way.” If we want our community to stay a community we need to work on it together.
State Rep. Mike Yin
Vaccinate or mask up
As a semiconservative, I believe you have the right to not get vaccinated against Covid-19 and to not wear a mask. But you don’t have the right to cost me and your neighbors thousands of dollars covering your medical expenses, because you were too bull-headed to get vaccinated. Why should we pick up your medical expenses, through cost shifting and higher insurance premiums, when your hospital bills exceed your deductible or, worse yet, when you don’t have medical insurance?
You have a right to not wear a mask but not to infect me. The Constitution doesn’t say you must wear pants, but you wear them anyway. No one wants to sit where you sat when not wearing pants! By the same token no one wants to breathe the same air you exhale, when you might be carrying Covid. Unless you have an underlying medical condition, get vaccinated or mask up and quit being silly.
Flights equal noise
Shame on the Jackson Hole Airport Board, Teton County commissioners and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.
Jackson Hole residents are very much aware of the need for airport service while promoting tourism for a healthy economy. However, these organizations have gone too far with selfish motives. Airport Director Jim Elwood would tell you there has been a reduction in flights. How does the airport board sleep at night with the constant lies all these years? I live north of town and guess what: According to FlightAware, on July 1 there were 155 arrivals and departures at the airport (commercial plus private). I find it frustrating that there is only token lip service regarding concern for the wildlife, environment and noise abatement for the 11 subdivisions that have tried endlessly to ask for a change in the departure pattern.
I attended the last airport board meeting on June 14. The board did not encourage public comment. My virtual hand was ignored, and they did not read letters sent to the board. What I took away from that meeting was there were five board members patting each other on the back for a job well done. My husband and I have spent endless hours communicating to the board and have talked with the retained airport sound engineer regarding noise abatement and flight paths. The focus is always on noise reduction for Grand Teton National Park, not the residents south of the airport. Here is an open invitation to the airport board members. Bottom line, if there is an increase in air traffic there is an increase in air noise.
The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce spent tens of thousands of dollars to promote our town without considering housing for employees. The campaign started six years ago, and look at where we are today. Last week, as I was waiting in line at the post office, a local individual was asking a chamber member about our valley being so disrupted by uncontrollable tourism. The chamber member responded, “What do you expect? We live next to a national park. It is what it is.” I wonder why this member didn’t mention employee housing, supporting small-business owners, or an uncontrollable influx of tourism.
Recently, Teton County commissioners selfishly approved a federally sponsored massive parking lot project without public comment. Is the community aware of this covert operation to put a parking lot on a wildlife migratory route near the Golf and Tennis four-way? Do the commissioners and Teton park not know there is a very large parking area at Gros Vente Junction that is rarely filled? Sounds like quid pro quo.
Is there a glimmer of hope for our town? Locals, please take a stand. Contact local and federal authorities. Our community wants restaurants to thrive, employee housing, and for retail stores to remain open.
Watch your ‘Y’ turns
It’s time for my annual plea: Drivers, please abide by the “no right turn” signals at the “Y” intersection. Let the pedestrians and pathway users get in and out of town safely. Let’s not have a horrible car-versus-person or car-versus-bike accident this summer. It may be confusing because the main light is green, but the “no right turn” signal is pretty obvious.